Cabinet clears National Health Policy

The policy makes health an entitlement but not a fundamental right as the draft policy had envisaged

HAVING DEFERRED it twice before, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the National Health Policy. Health Minister J P Nadda will make a suo motu statement in Parliament to make details of the new policy public as no policy announcement can be made outside the House while Parliament is in session. The policy makes health an entitlement but not a fundamental right as the draft policy had envisaged. It stops short of a legislative backing for right to health. A Right to Health legislation in the nature of right to education would need a constitutional amendment to bring health in the concurrent list from where it currently is on the state list.

In the current policy, health services are merely “assured”. It, however, talks of imposing a health cess much like the education cess that was imposed after RTE was legislated. It talks of increasing public expenditure on health to 2.5 per cent of GDP — as demanded by experts for a long time.

The last health policy dates back to 2002. The new policy seeks to strengthen the primary healthcare setup while increasing the scope of public private partnerships. “Till now, PHCs were only for immunisation, anti-natal check ups and others. But what is a major policy shift is that now it will also include screening non-communicable diseases and a whole lot of other aspects,” a senior health ministry official said.

The draft also addressed the issues of universal health coverage, reducing maternal and infant mortality rate, as well as making drugs and diagnostics available free at least in the public healthcare system of the country. It suggests that the Centre must amend laws to align them with the current healthcare scenario.

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